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Fantasy Eastern Caribbean with a 9-month-old

Discussion in 'Disney Cruise Line Trip Reports' started by erogers, Dec 22, 2012.

  1. erogers

    erogers Member

    Our cast of characters: me, DH, DD who turned 9 months while we were on the cruise

    Hopefully this will help someone out who's going on a cruise with an infant for the first time...or just going on a Disney cruise for the first time! We were in both categories for this trip!

    A few months ago, I decided I wanted a vacation, specifically a cruise vacation to someplace warm. The only other cruise I’ve been on was with Royal Caribbean in the Mediterranean about six years ago, so I kind of figured we’d go Royal Caribbean again. They have a new ship that sounded awesome: Oasis of the Seas.

    Just for a laugh, I thought I’d research how much more a cruise on a Disney ship would be. Disney also has two new ships: the Dream and the Fantasy. To my surprise, all told, the Disney cruise wasn’t really that much more expensive than Royal Caribbean. Since we never use the casino, that wasn’t a big loss, and there were some extra amenities on the Disney ship that would make travel with a 9-month-old a little easier (a great nursery, larger staterooms that would help accommodate a pack-n-play, bathtubs in the rooms to make bathing our princess much easier).

    DH agreed, and we booked a cruise to the Eastern Caribbean on the Disney Fantasy, which is not even a year old. We went the first week in December, so we got the relatively new itinerary with San Juan, Puerto Rico as one of the ports of call.

    We flew in the day the cruise left rather than spend an extra night in a hotel. Thoughts of dragging our tremendous amounts of luggage, and our daughter, from the airport to a hotel, then pack everything back up to drag it all back to the airport does not appeal to me. Disney’s transportation option from the airport to the cruise terminal in Port Canaveral seemed like the easy option: we wouldn’t have to lug our baggage around once we arrived in Orlando or worry with a one-way rental car or a car seat.

    After snaking through a long line to check-in for the transportation, we then ended up waiting over half an hour to get on a bus to take us to the port. About the time we were waiting to load the bus we thought the rental car might have been a better idea. However, once we arrived at the cruise terminal, we didn’t have to wait at all in any lines because we had checked-in for the cruise at the airport before getting on the bus. If we do this again, I’d be willing to shell out the money for Disney transportation just because we didn’t have to deal with all of our luggage. Of course, the more kids in your party, the more expensive the Disney shuttle gets, so a one-way rental car may end up being cheaper in that case.

    (I'm trying to get all this posted relatively quickly, so stay tuned!)
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  3. erogers

    erogers Member

    The ship is fabulous! I think much of it has to be because it’s so new, but everything is clean and bright and beautiful. We were so happy with our stateroom. What a great idea to divide the bathrooms up into a shower/tub/sink room and a toilet/sink room!

    Before we had our daughter, we would got a cheaper inside stateroom and would have always done that. We’re the kind of people who spend all our waking moments out and about, enjoying the views and the activities. Now that we have a 9-month-old, I can say that having a room with a veranda was the way to go. Not only did DD enjoy being out on the veranda (always with our supervision, of course), but we also enjoyed having the view and outdoor space since we spent much more time in the stateroom with our child than we would have otherwise (naps, nursing, taking longer for everybody to get ready in the morning or before dinner).

    Guests are free to smoke on their verandas and whether you have a smoker near your stateroom is luck (or unluck) of the draw. Our neighbors were apparently chain smokers and there were very few times when we went outside that they weren’t also out there smoking. However, we knew we were taking this chance when we booked a room with a veranda, and there were still several times that DD could go out and crawl around on the veranda without the smoke.

    Disney provided a pack-n-play, a diaper genie, and distilled water for DD's bottles. There is so much storage space in the stateroom on this ship! We were so surprised. Even with a 9-month-old, we didn’t use every drawer. I can see how there would easily be enough space for storage in this room even with two or three kiddos. It definitely helps that the bed is high enough to store luggage, snorkel gear, or any other bigger items you might have.
  4. erogers

    erogers Member

    I read so many people’s criticisms of the food on Disney ships, including the Fantasy, that I really lowered my expectations before we left on this cruise. I love to cook and am often disappointed in restaurant food anyway, so I figured as long as it was edible and I didn’t have to cook it or clean it up I was going to be extremely grateful.

    The food was fabulous! It helped that we had a head server who really told us the best things to order for each course. One night, one of our tablemates ordered an appetizer and he told her he wouldn’t order that and offered her another suggestion. Every time I asked him which entrée I should get, I was very pleased it. Even the lunch buffet at Cabanas had at least one really tasty selection every day.

    Another thing I heard about the dining on the Fantasy was that dinner takes forever. While it is longer than we usually spend eating, it definitely wouldn’t have made us late to any of the evening shows. We had main seating, which worked so well with a 9-month-old! We usually made it to dinner a bit after 5:45 and were done by 7:15 or 7:30. Our DD takes a bottle before she eats her baby food, so I would feed her the bottle while looking over the menu and ordering. Sometimes DH and I had to take turns eating our appetizers while giving her the bottle. Then for the rest of the meal, she would sit in her high chair and eat with us.

    The first night at dinner, our server had the kitchen puree veggies for DD and asked if we'd like him to do that every night. We took him up on it, although some nights DD like the puree better than other nights. (You could have them puree anything you want from the menu.) I brought along baby food that I knew she'd eat, so there was always a back-up. They provide a lot of puree, so I brought some take-n-toss containers to keep the leftovers in and use for lunch the following day.

    We had the best tablemates ever! It was our little family and another family of three whose little girl was a few months older than our DD. They actually were in a stateroom just a few doors down from us! We got along so well that our conversation and feeding the girls is probably what made dinner seem to pass at a good pace.

    DD is not as good away from us in the evening, so almost every evening she just ate dinner with us and was fine either taking her bottle or sitting/eating in her high chair. Both the girls at the table seemed to be ready to go about the same time, but it was usually just about the time we were finishing up dessert anyway.

    Eating with her at the buffets for lunch worked out well as long as DH and I just took turns getting our food, eating, and feeding DD. We mostly utilized the “It’s a Small World Nursery” during the day. On sea days, DD went to the nursery as soon as it opened for a few hours so most of our breakfasts were just us two adults unless DH got ready early and brought up a plate of food for us to eat in the stateroom while we got ready. Both ways, it all worked out nicely.

    One morning we ate at the Royal Court, which I do not recommend if you have young kids. It seemed that all the hot food was taking forever to get out to the tables. It took way longer to eat breakfast than we would have liked. The coconut muffins they have for breakfast there are amazing, but I would skip the pancakes/waffles/French toast. A couple times we ate at the Enchanted Garden buffet, which is much less crowded than going up to Cabanas for breakfast. The buffets are adequate, and you can find good things to eat.

    We got reservations the last evening of the cruise for dinner at Palo. The nursery workers really do a great job at not interrupting you if they know you’re eating at Palo or Remy. When we went to pick DD up after dinner, we were pleasantly surprised that, although she hadn’t eaten anything, they were able to get her to sleep. They even looked to see if there was room for her to stay longer since she was sleeping, but it turned out they were booked the rest of the evening.

    Back to Palo. The food is amazing. As I said before, I really thought almost all the food on the cruise was fantastic, so this was just a notch above. We didn’t have a choice when I booked our reservations, but I would not recommend leaving Palo (or Remy) for the last evening. By the end of the week, we were both kind of full and just tired of eating. Even though our meal was great, I did not finish anything. We also kind of missed our last evening eating with our tablemates since we really had made friends with them by then. I think night 2 or 3 would be ideal for dinner at Palo.
  5. Kandjandj

    Kandjandj Earning My Ears

    I really appreciate you writing this review and look forward to more.
  6. Dan29racing

    Dan29racing Earning My Ears

    My DW and I will be cruising in March on the Fantasy with twin DS's who will be almost 8 months when we leave, so we will be reading this post very closely!!! Thank you!:thumbsup2
  7. DisneyWillow1975

    DisneyWillow1975 Earning My Ears

    Thanks for writing this! I'm Dan29racing's DW, and can't wait to read more. I've been lurking for a few years and have been reading all of the cruising with infant threads, but think this one may be the best fit for our family. :thumbsup2
  8. MissieTodd

    MissieTodd Earning My Ears

    Thank you for taking the time to review your trip. My husband and I are in the process of planning our first disney cruise for the summer of 2014 and I'm trying to learn as much as I can!
  9. MagicMe

    MagicMe Mouseketeer

    I actually love to have the brunch at Palo so I don't miss any dinners.
  10. erogers

    erogers Member

    So sorry I haven't added more to this yet! (But I figure those with infants who really care about this TR can totally understand how Christmas, a household of illness, and an infant can kinda derail the best laid plans!)

    My DH is the kind of guy who refuses to pay for an excursion. It's kind of a game to him to figure out how we can do things on our own for cheaper. Since we've traveled plenty, I have confidence in him by now! Plus, the excursion options if you want to take your infant with you are pretty limited.

    I think I mentioned this earlier, but we did not bring a car seat with us. Honestly, most of the taxis readily available in St. Thomas and St. John do not even have the means to attach a car seat in them. San Juan has regular car/minivan taxis, so if you wanted to haul a car seat with you, I'm sure some drivers would wait for you to install it for your taxi ride. We just put DD in an Ergo carrier when we were on the buses/open air taxis/taxis...and prayed for her safety. It was all fine.

    On the advice of my parents and some friends, we decided to spend our St. Thomas day on St. John. I wanted to go to the beach (DD's first beach experience!), and DH figured out how to make it happen. Trunk Bay on St. John is the most popular beach, so it could be crowded, however it is also the beach with bathroom and shower facilities, a food stand, and umbrellas for rent. We thought all those amenities might be helpful with a 9-month-old.

    We were some of the first off the ship. Somehow we made our way off with a group of people who were all lining up along the pier (we assumed to get through the customs officials). Then DH noticed Disney cast members taking papers from everybody in line ahead of us. We pulled another cast member over to ask what we were in line for: the champagne catamaran tour. Um. Yeah, guess that's not one of the excursions we're allowed on with a 9-month-old!

    So, that only set us back a few minutes. The taxis are all right there by the dock, and lots of people are generally going to the Red Hook ferry to go to St. John, so we hardly waited at all before our full taxi was headed to the ferry. I think since DD was in a carrier the entire time, none of the taxi drivers charged us anything for her ride. The ferry over to St. John and back does require a ticket for everyone, but I'm pretty sure DD's ticket was a reduced price.

    I'm not sure how long the ferry ride is since DD spent the entire trip screaming her head off...I think she had gotten sunscreen in her little eyes. Anyway, the screaming made it seem about eight hours, but I'm pretty sure it's closer to 25 or 30 minutes. :)

    Once in St. John, the taxis are, again, right there by the dock. So, you just ask for a taxi going to Trunk Bay. We were lucky to be the last to fill our taxi, so we didn't have to wait at all. The taxi drivers will stop at an overlook of Trunk Bay for a photo op. The ride is probably 20 minutes.

    Getting off the ship early was not a problem for us since DD wakes up so early, and really it wasn't crowded at all when we got to Trunk Bay! We stayed from about 10 to 2, took turns doing some snorkeling, had fun watching DD play in the sand, got some food at the food stand (I brought a bottle and baby food in our bag for DD), played some more, then rinsed off and got a taxi in the parking lot back to the ferry. DD took several naps during our cruise up on DH's shoulders! It's so funny how she just slumps over and can sleep up there for half an hour! This happened while we walked up and down the beach at Trunk Bay.

    Unfortunately, our taxi driver must have thought we were leaving with some Holland America excursion group or something and took us to a ferry dock that was going back to a different place on St. Thomas. Just be sure you specify you need a ferry going back to Red Hook. Even though we got dropped off at the wrong dock, we only had to walk 5 minutes down the road to get to the correct ferry.

    St. John is absolutely beautiful, and we had a really fun time at Trunk Bay, so I don't feel any regret about missing St. Thomas. And to sum up the transportation: taxi to Red Hook ferry, ferry ride, taxi to Trunk Bay, then back again. It does take time to do the transportation, but you also get to see some beautiful scenery. I say do it if you can enjoy the ride!

    (Next up will be San Juan and Castaway Cay! If any of you with infants think of questions, just ask!)
  11. erogers

    erogers Member

    DisneyWillow1975 and Dan29racing, your boys are so precious! I really think a Disney cruise is one of the best vacations you can take with small children...especially when you utilize the nursery.
  12. MrsKP

    MrsKP Member

    Thanks for the info on Trunk Bay!
  13. Dan29racing

    Dan29racing Earning My Ears

    Thank you for your comment erogers! They both have colds at the moment so night time is not fun right now!

    I have two questions for you if you can help. 1. You mentioned above that Disney supplied distilled water, was this included or did you have to buy the water package from Disney. This would help with packing if we didnt have to bring a bunch of water bottles with us... and 2. More on packing, we were thinking of what we had to pack and blankets for nap time and floor time came up. Were you able to get other blankets from your stateroom host for your baby??? That would free up some more room if we didnt have to pack a bunch of blankets for the kids!

    Thanks again, loving the report so far!
  14. DisneyWillow1975

    DisneyWillow1975 Earning My Ears

    Thanks for the kind words about our boys. :-) Dan forgot 1 thing in his question above. Were there sheets for the pack and plays? We're starting to brainstorm and come up with a packing list.
  15. Katekins13

    Katekins13 Member

    Ill be traveling with a 6 month old in January so this post is great! Since my daughter will only be 6 months, she will only have had limited baby food. Can you give me some examples of what they puréed?

  16. erogers

    erogers Member

    You just have to call guest services when you get on the ship and ask for some distilled water to be delivered to make your sons' bottles. They gave us a gallon, which lasted us all week since I also BF some. You could probably ask for a couple gallons and then just call when you need more. It was free.

    Guest services will also provide a bottle sterilizer for free.

    I don't know about the blankets since we just let DD crawl around on the floor without blankets. She sleeps in a sleep sack, so we just brought a few of those with us. There are not blankets on the beds, just a comforter, so I'm not sure if they would have blankets to provide you. (Although, I would really be surprised if Disney doesn't have blankets if you ask for them!) You could probably get extra sheets from the stateroom host to lay out on the floor.
  17. erogers

    erogers Member

    They provide sheets for the pack and plays, and if you want them changed you can just ask your stateroom host for clean sheets.
  18. erogers

    erogers Member

    The first night I asked our server to puree spaghetti and meatballs. When I do it at home, it's mostly noodles and lots of sauce. This was mostly meatballs and DD hated it. Lesson learned!

    The other nights I asked them to puree up a mix of veggies, so it was whatever they had; always had carrots, peas and broccoli in it, but it changed a little night-to-night. You can ask for a specific veggie to be pureed, like just peas or carrots, or whatever mix your DD likes. Really, anything on the menu can be pureed (fish, meat, mac n cheese, chicken nuggets - blech!), but if you don't know in advance of your meal what you want pureed it will take a long time to come out of the kitchen. If you have a standing order, or tell your server the night before what you want for the following night, your server can have it ready by the time you come to the dining room (or shortly after you get there).

    (I think I just used the word "puree" more in that paragraph than I have in my entire life! :) Hope this helps.)
  19. DisneyWillow1975

    DisneyWillow1975 Earning My Ears

    Thanks, erogers! I BF as well, so we would only need to supplement with bottles. Our guys sleep in sleep sacks, too, so the sheet to sit/lie on while playing on the floor is a great idea. You just saved us a ton of space in our suitcases! :-)
  20. erogers

    erogers Member

    Since we did the beach in St. John and knew we were going to do the beach again on Castaway Cay, we decided to spend our day in Puerto Rico in El Yunque, the rainforest. We rented a car from Charlie Car Rental, which worked out pretty well even though we couldn’t get them to come pick us up at the port like they had promised. When we called in the morning, they asked at which pier we were docked. We didn’t know, so told them we’d find out and call back, but when we tried to call back (repeatedly for 20 minutes) no one answered the phone! We had the address for Charlie’s and ended up taking a taxi to their office. This must be a somewhat regular occurrence because they reimbursed us for our taxi with no problem. They had car seats available for the rental cars, so that was a plus. We rented a small SUV (a Jeep), and having the back area was great for diaper changes and letting DD crawl around a little bit.

    It’s about a 45 minute drive to El Yunque from San Juan, and the rainforest is beautiful!!! We made a few scenic stops (Yokahu Tower and La Coca Falls) and went on one hike (Big Tree Trail to La Mina Falls). The U.S. National Forest website has info on all the hiking trails in El Yunque. Appropriately for a rain forest, it rained while we were on Big Tree Trail, so it’s a good idea to bring a rain coat if you’re planning to hike around in El Yunque. DD was strapped into her Ergo carrier, which has a little sun shade/rain cover that snaps over her. She stayed dry and got a nice nap on the way back to the parking lot from the falls. A bit further up the road from the Big Tree Trail trailhead is a little restaurant called Yuquiyu that has great hamburgers, quesadillas, and several authentic Puerto Rican items on the menu. I believe there's an ad for Yuquiyu in the Big Tree Trail parking lot. We stopped there for lunch and had some nice conversations with other visitors while eating on their covered patio.

    Originally we thought we might stop at Luquillo Beach on the way back, but we were all tired after getting in and out of the car and hiking a little bit in the rain, so we just headed back to the rental car place. They took us back to the pier right where the ship was, which is probably less than a ten-minute drive.

    Renting a car is also great if you happen to need anything from a Walgreens or Walmart (especially with kids, you never know what you may run out of or lose by mid-week of the cruise). A GPS would come in handy if you’re looking for a specific store. We made a quick Walgreens stop on our way to El Yunque because we happened to notice one on the road we were traveling. I really loved the beauty of El Yunque, but I know there is so much to do and see in San Juan as well. Puerto Rico is definitely a place where we could vacation for a week; maybe someday we will!
  21. erogers

    erogers Member

    We didn’t want to leave DD in the nursery all day, so we just put her in for a few hours in the morning. That gave us time to have some breakfast and then go to the adult beach on the island for a little while. It was hard to think of the last time I sat in a chair in the sun and did absolutely nothing! After we picked DD up from the nursery, DH and I took turns riding the Aquaduck several times since there was absolutely no one up there! Then we headed onto the island to have lunch at Cookie’s. I actually thought the chicken and ribs were great!

    There's a splash park on Castaway Cay, but I thought the water was a little cold, so after lunch we just headed to the family beach where we ran into our tablemates and spent an hour or so hanging out with them, watching our girls play in the sand. It was just enough sand, sun and water for DD before she reached her exhaustion point. She actually fell asleep on DH's shoulders on the way back to the ship and he just continued walking around the ship with her while I got cleaned up so she could just finish her nap.

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